Nestlé Uses IoT To Perk Up Office Life in Japan

Executive summary

  • Nescafé ambassadors keep their office pantries stocked with beverages and confectionary products.
  • Nestlé Japan decided to revolutionize the way it does business by leveraging on the Internet of Things (IoT). They created and deployed a solution to automate the order and reorder process.
  • Office workers all over the country can now order flavors of its products by a simple touch of a button.
  • Nestlé is able to collect data on buying behavior and trends, ensuring higher quality customer experience as well as business growth.

 

 

Nestlé’s biggest business in Japan is its flagship beverage Nescafé. Its well-known KitKat wafer bars are also very popular. In offices all over the country, there are Nescafé ambassadors who volunteer to manage the beverages and snacks within their offices. They wanted Nestlé to incorporate varieties of its Kit Kat wafer bars as a complement to Nescafe to make break time in the office just a little bit ‘sweeter’.

This would enable office workers at their daily work sites to enjoy the wafer bar that they want, when they want. According to a Nestlé ambassador, workers only had the option of beverages, so the confectionary would add a ‘perk’ during breaks.

Darren Saunders, Digital Innovation and Business Integration Manager, Nestlé Japan says, “We wanted to make use of [an] IoT [application to enable office workers to reorder stocks [of our KitKat wafer bars] with a push of a button”.

No Way To Look at Customer Behavior

Prior to this, it was difficult to ensure that stocks of KitKat wafer bars were available in offices because there was no visibility on consumption habits. It was left up to the Nestlé ambassadors to reorder the confectionary by phone, fax or email when stocks were low or depleted. While workers waited for the snacks to be replenished, they sometimes had to go for days without their preferred KitKat flavor. Popular flavors of the confectionary would be depleted quickly while less popular flavors would remain on the shelves.

Alternatively, they had to settle for something else. For this reason, Nestlé Japan needed a connectivity solution that would enable workers to order, and fulfill stocks easily. Therefore, it had to automate the reordering process.When Nestlé explored IoT applications and devices available in the Japanese market, it found that many relied on cellular and wireless connectivity, which would make installation and deployment untenable. After a period of evaluation of the possible IoT connectivity options in the market, Nestlé Japan decided to collaborate with KCCS Mobile Engineering Co., Ltd (KCME), a Sigfox Partner. 

Office workers reorder KitKat wafer bars with a push of a smart button

 

Sigfox-enabled KitKat box

 

For Nestlé, the KitKat Tanomeru Kun enables Nestlé ambassadors to reorder its products easily by pressing a button when stocks are low. Also called the KitKat box, it is a custom-designed box that features KCME’s communication device (Sigfox Multi Adaptor) connected to a Smart button device (developed by KCME, for Nestlé Japan). The Smart button device is plug-and-play and works out-of-the-box as soon as it is attached to vending machines. And because it is connected by the Sigfox network, the device works even when there is no WiFi.

That makes it perfect for offices as these KitKat boxes can be placed in remote locations not typically served by an Internet connection. Hideki Hiraguchi, Network and Business Innovation Manager, KCCS Mobile Engineering says, “Our system works on battery so it is portable [and can be placed anywhere in the office].”

The powerful device contains a temperature sensor, accelerometer, and most importantly, a button on the unit accompanied by a micro USB interface. All anyone needs to do is to press a button when any of the three KitKat flavors is low. The data is transmitted to the Sigfox Cloud to reach the customized Nestlé order server developed by Access Co. Ltd., an independent business offering IT solutions across a diverse array of industries as well as mobile and network software technology.

IoT Smart button is a Game Changer for Nestlé

Smart buttons are one of the most simple and effective IoT devices. One push of the button and the data is transmitted to the Sigfox Cloud within seconds.

With the device installed, workers no longer need to worry about vending machines running out of their favorite snack flavors. When stocks run low, anyone can simply push the button. That information is sent instantly to Sigfox base station and then to the cloud. The data is then transmitted to Nestlé’s ordering system.

For companies in the food and beverage sector, the reordering and replacement process becomes significantly easier by using IoT connected devices. All that is needed for restocking and reordering is a push of a Smart button. There is no need for phone calls, emails or website requests. This makes it a low maintenance solution for offices. Here are four key advantages:

Easy to Reorder  

IoT devices enable efficient communication between the business and the consumer/user. This makes the customer experience of using and easily reordering via a KitKat box seamless. Smart button devices enable Nestlé ambassadors to keep the snack boxes stocked at all times. According to Saunders, users can reorder stocks with “a tip of their finger”, simply by pressing a button. This feature is unrivalled by any other available vending machines today.

In addition, the Smart button application doesn’t just send instant alerts. It also enables Nestlé to learn more about each customer’s pattern of consumption. Data is automatically recorded and stored on a dashboard for predictive analysis. This data provides Nestlé with better insight into their business. After a few months of operation, they can use the data to begin to predict when machines will need refilling and can replenish supplies based on this predictive analysis. This means reduced stock waste and lower operating costs.

By and large, Nestlé can track customers’ behavior with a view in buying trends to boost service levels and to drive sales. This IoT application enables Nestlé to grow its business, adds Saunders.

Low Costs  

The IoT Smart button device reduces connectivity costs. The Sigfox wireless communication technology is called “LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network)”, with power-saving communication capabilities. Its plug-and-play connectivity makes it easy to install and deploy.

The upfront and ongoing costs of the device are minimal. Connectivity is achieved through very small messages when the button is pushed. These messages require little energy to send, which means that the cost of powering the device remains very low.

Portable  

The KitKat boxes can be positioned at various places within the office. They use batteries which runs for years. This removes the need for a direct power supply.

Before implementation, Nestlé evaluated a variety of IoT solutions in the fast paced Japanese IoT development market. It found that Sigfox has the widest coverage and a high rate of connectivity. Saunders says, “Sigfox delivers the best solution for our needs.”

Conclusion

In the final analysis, the IoT application provides the visibility into customer behavior and buying trends. This insight is critical to helping food and beverage companies like Nestlé Japan predict future demand, and to manage stocks accordingly. In this way, companies are not only able to avoid overstocking but also reduce the risk of under stocking and not being able to meet industry and consumer demands.

With real time insights into its customers buying habits, Nestlé Japan will be able to keep stocks of its products at optimal level. Accurate time and information management can also help to reduce waste and to ensure the quality of delivered perishable goods. Meanwhile, implementation of Kit Kat Tanomeru Kun boxes in offices all over the country was easy and seamless.

 

Darren Saunders

Darren Saunders
Digital Innovation and Business Integration Manager
Nestlé Japan

Sigfox delivers the best solution for our needs… In terms of reliability and operation, it has been flawless.

Hideki Hiraguchi Thumbnail

Hideki Hiraguchi
Network and Business Innovation Manager
KCCS Mobile Engineering

As the volume of data being sent is low, we were able to adopt Sigfox and significantly reduce the cost of connectivity. The KitKat box could be positioned in various places within customers’ offices, leading to the question of power supply. Our devices are battery-operated, so they can be easily moved, solving this problem.